As any whisky distiller knows, calculating maturation loss – the so-called angels’ share: spirit that evaporates through the oak casks and into the atmosphere during the maturation process – is a delicate and complex task.
Multiple factors affect how thirsty the angels are at any given time. For starters, younger whisky tends to lose around 3.5 to 4 per cent each year, but this rate slows as the spirit ages. Nevertheless, by the time it reaches 20 years, a whisky may have lost around 40% of its original volume.
Then there’s the matter of the size of the cask. In smaller casks more whisky is in direct contact with the wood, so evaporates more quickly. Barrels, at 190 to 200 litres, are more affected by maturation loss than the larger hogsheads, at 225 to 250 litres. The largest casks of all, 375 to 500 litre butts, tend to lose less whisky. Of course, since the interaction between whisky and cask is a crucial part of the maturation process, the largest casks take longer to mature their whisky – so the price of reducing maturation loss is more years in the cask.
Climate and environment also play a role here, with higher temperatures and drier air increasing maturation loss: this is why loss tends to be higher in American distilleries compared with Scottish ones.
While the concept of an angels’ share may seem rather poetic, for a distillery manager, accurately predicting maturation loss on the way to producing a finished whisky is a vital part of running an efficient business. Without those calculations, productivity forecasts – and therefore sales and revenue forecasts – will be over-optimistic, and intelligent future planning impossible.
Such calculations can be carried out manually using spreadsheets – and of course, for many years they were undertaken without any form of technology at all – but in today’s hyper-competitive and fast-moving market, it is vital for distilleries to be as accurate as possible. Spreadsheets are notoriously easy to populate with errors and data is frequently lost from them. What’s more: generating complex models and forecasts with standard spreadsheet software requires specialist levels of skill and experience, which may not be core competencies for all distillery managers.
So what’s the alternative? Maturing inventory management solutions are essential for spirits producers that wish to truly drive efficiencies and gain intelligent, comprehensive insights into how their business is run. DRAMS has been designed with specialist capabilities for calculating maturation loss – simply plug in factors such as cask size and whisky age, and the software does the rest.
As all whisky producers know, sacrificing a bit to the heavens is a price worth paying for the perfect results. We help you predict those results with ease and accuracy.